“I was standing right next to Michael Phelps and didn’t even know it.”

Maggie and I were traveling home from Paraguay recently, by way of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Little did we know that Michael Phelps was on our 9-hour 777 flight from Brazil to Washington-Dulles.

By 6:30am, I was standing in the customs line, next to 2 tall guys who sort of looked like athletes/celebrities. You know — they just had that look about them, especially the one right next to me — he had a very familiar face. Well, I kept glancing over, trying to satisfy my hunch, and he never glanced back. In fact, he seemed to be staring at the pillar and away from the people in line behind/next to him. After about 10 minutes, I thought, “Oh! That familiar face — could that be Michael Phelps?”

Now, you might be thinking, “Steve, if Michael Phelps were standing in line right next to me, I’d certainly know it. After all, the man is an icon and his world-famous face has been everywhere from Disneyworld to Wheatie’s boxes … not to mention, that little televised competition in China where he brought home an unprecedented 8 gold medals!” I know, I know … but … picture this: he had what I’d describe as a broken up half-beard, long(ish) hair, he’d reportedly put on 15 pounds since the Olympics and most of all he was not smiling. Additionally, I hadn’t slept so well in economy on this turbulent red-eye back from South America. (Okay, enough excuses) So, I convinced myself that it couldn’t be him. It only looked a little like him and that wasn’t enough for me to say anything to this stranger.

Michael Phelps

After 5 more minutes, he proceeded over to the glass booth to get his passport stamped and was on his way to the final checkpoint in the customs area of Dulles Airport. Next in line, I asked the clerk (afraid to sound silly by using any specific name (i.e., Michael Phelps)), “Was that a celebrity?” [Read more…]

Is Speaking Your #1 Fear?

 Nervousness is Selfish Energy

5 Techniques to Presenting … Comfortably and Confidently [originally posted Jan. ’09]

I recently caught a TV interview with Billy Joel’s wife (Katie Lee Joel). Knowing that millions of people would be watching, a friend gave her some of the best advice I’ve ever heard – that friend began by stating, “Nervousness is selfish energy.” – more on this below.

What has your nervousness cost you up till now? Do you regret not having taken an opportunity to speak at any of the following?

  • Client Meetings
  • Company Meetings
  • Peer Groups
  • Funerals For Loved Ones
  • Parties or Celebrations
  • Seminars or Conferences
  • Networking Functions

Is public speaking your #1 fear? If so, you are certainly not alone. All too often we miss opportunities to speak and share. Your experiences, successes, failures and stories all reflect valuable life lessons … especially when shared with others.

1. Nervousness is Selfish Energy

You see it all the time: pacing, shallow breathing, pocket-change-jingling, lack of eye contact and sweating. Why do people get so nervous? The answer is simple – they’re focused on … themselves. How selfish! When you’re in front of a group, make it about them … not you. Focus on the value you bring to your audience and what you want to communicate, convey and contribute.
The moment you focus on others and give up your need to “look good,” you’ll discover a profound shift in your ability to present and you’ll appear much more human. (Of course, a little nervousness is perfectly normal)

2. What’s Your Story?

For thousands of years, we’ve communicated effectively through storytelling. Stories don’t have to be memorized and usually should not be rehearsed, especially if they’re derived from personal experience. Telling stories will put you and your audience at ease. Whatever point(s) you want to make can be illustrated energetically and memorably with a story.

As a trainer, I could spend hours listing the facts, tips, tricks and techniques about delivering great customer service or I could share a couple of powerful stories, drawing from my own personal experiences – one about using frequent flyer points to book international travel on a major airline, and another about a debacle that ensued when I tried to order a guitar for my then-girlfriend’s birthday gift. Which method do you think would be more memorable, compelling, engaging and natural?

3. Press Pause

Remember, you know the material, but your audience usually doesn’t. That’s why you’re the one on stage. So take it slow and don’t let nerves cause you to hurry through your presentation. One of the biggest mistakes I see, is a presenter rushing through a very important – sometimes profound – point.
Keep in mind that listeners can’t process everything they hear, as quickly as you can speak it. In order for your words to fully sink in, you must allow a little time for processing. Pause briefly after making an important point and watch the faces in your audience. You’ll see the “light bulbs” after a second or two. Had you simply continued speaking, however, they likely would have missed your excellent point. Don’t rob the audience of the value your comments bring. (Pausing also gives you a moment to gather your own thoughts, before moving forward.)

4. Death by PowerPoint

I’ve seen so many folks hide behind a PowerPoint presentation to lessen nervousness. However, you, as the presenter, are the star of the show – not your slides. When the projector comes on (and the lights go off), a boring slide show may be turning spectators into zombies. But PowerPoint itself isn’t the enemy, non-strategic delivery of PowerPoint is. If you’re using slides, here are a few crucial tips:

  • Use pictures and/or video instead of text, whenever possible (remember, a picture is worth a thousand words)
  • Use bullet points (never paragraphs) and a large, easy-to-read font
  • Don’t read the text that’s on the screen. Bor-ing! (this won’t even be an issue if you’re following the last point)
  • Display bullet points one at a time (otherwise the audience will read ahead)
  • Use a remote control to advance slides, not your laptop or an assistant using your laptop (this will allow you to move about the room – motion creates e-motion – and present seamlessly)
  • When you’re not referring to slides, turn the projector off, (this action is usually a feature of your remote control)
  • Keep the lights on inside the room (slides with large black text on a white background will usually make this possible)
  • Take the time to get comfortable with your material in advance, so you can treat bulleted slides as you would bulleted note cards, using them only to keep you on your intended path

5. There’s a Friendly Face

If you’re the scheduled speaker/presenter, show up early and meet as many people as you can. Making connections beforehand will help you feel as though you’re speaking to friends, not strangers.

As you look out into the crowd, know that there’s always going to be someone who appears to be judging you – sitting with arms folded, brow furrowed and wearing a skeptical look. Don’t let this throw you – you have no idea what this person is really thinking (I often sit in an audience with arms folded, simply for back comfort). As you speak, try not to focus your attention on anyone that makes you feel substandard or self-conscious. Remember, there will also be a fan – smiling and nodding, with eyes fixated on you. You’ll never convert the seeming skeptic, so look to your “fans” instead. Let their positive energy be your fuel.


Much as an irritating grain of sand forms the basis of a pearl, so can discomfort yield personal growth. Step outside of your comfort zone, especially if you’ve never presented. Cross that bridge and watch it get easier each and every time.

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson – 1803-1882, Poet and Essayist

Readin’ Ain’t Never Done Nothin’ To Hurt Nobody

6 Tips on Making the Most Out of Your Reading

I write when I’m inspired and I must admit that I found myself less than inspired about what this month’s eNewsletter topic would be. Then it dawned on me, as I was reading a great book (while waiting for a haircut) that I should write about reading great books. Why? Because books have had a profound impact on my life and business. I’ve noticed, that when some of the most successful people are interviewed, they have something in common – They’ll often share that they watch little or no TV and they read lots of books.

Reading Just One Book Per Year Puts You in the Top 20% of U.S. Readers*
Admittedly, I wasn’t much of a reader until I hit my 30’s. Now my challenge is that I’m purchasing books from Amazon.com faster than I can read them. People are always asking me which books I recommend – I’ve created a page on my web site to recommend my favorites (we’re talking non-fiction; mostly business development or personal development). Although all of what I’ll share with you here applies to all types of reading and any genre.

1. “I want to read more, but I just can’t find the time”
I’ve found that no matter how busy I am, there’s always time to squeeze in some excellent reading. Here are some ideas you can apply right away:

  • WaitingTurn waiting time into reading time. We’re all made to wait, probably more often than we’d probably care to realize – Doctor’s/dentist’s offices, the DMV, auto repair shops, hair salons, restaurant waiting areas, metro/bus/train stations, airports, airplanes, etc.
  • Get ‘em on CD. Most great books are available on CD (or MP3), which means you can listen to them while in your vehicle/traveling. I don’t do a ton of driving and I’m still amazed at how quickly I can make it through an entire book on CD. Each time I start my car, there’s my book, picking up right where it left off. It’s even a built-in stress reliever – I really don’t mind traffic anymore, it just means more time to enjoy my book. And it helps me get to the next book that much quicker.

2. Ask for Recommendations
People love being asked to recommend books. It makes them feel smart, important and valued. Of course you’ll want to consider the source. Ask like-minded successful people about their favorites inside of a particular genre and you’ll find no shortage of recommendations.

3. Replace Your 11 O’clock News
Old TVHave you noticed how negative the news can be? It always amazes me that so many of us would want to fill our heads with all of this negativity just before going to sleep (or trying to go to sleep). It has been said that while you sleep, your mind will marinate on what you allowed in just before you fell asleep. Why not focus on something positive, upbeat, inspirational, promising? A great book! When was the last time you referred to the 11 o’clock news, using any of those adjectives?

4. Keep a Highlighter On Hand
I’ve noticed several benefits to highlighting remarkable statements in my books, not the least of which is that doing so helps me remember those statements. When something really resonates with you, highlight it. When you return to a book to refresh your memory, finding your favorite points and golden nuggets will be a snap. This will also give you something (or many things) interesting to discuss in your book club…

5. Start or Join a Book Club
Book ClubA friend and I decided to start our own book club. We realized it would be a great way to gain others’ perspectives and to revisit our favorite parts of a book. We decided to focus on books about personal/business development and asked four other friends (avid readers of the same material) if they’d be interested in meeting regularly. All four said yes and we now meet every three weeks for 90 minutes. In-between meetings, we all find ourselves looking forward to the rich conversations. Can you see the benefits of joining a book club, or even starting one of your own?

6. Pay Them Forward
I feel the worst thing you can do with a great book is to leave it sitting on a shelf for years, collecting dust. Why not share it with others? I was recently chatting with a man who was complaining about his extensive collection of books and the hassle of moving them from home to home every few years. I shared my theory and he agreed. He now keeps half-a-dozen books in his trunk, ready for ‘distribution’ – a lunch conversation will remind him of a particular book and he’ll say, “There’s something I want you to have; want to loan you.” After lunch, it’s off to his car for that special gift.

Consider keeping a list of your favorites in your PDA/cell phone/day planner/etc. You might decide to post your favorites to a page on your web site.

*Source: Jenkins Group Survey

For a list of books I highly recommend, visit:


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Founding and Maintaining Goal-Setting Groups

A Support System For Your Goals

5 Easy Steps to Utilizing Your Own Monthly Goal-Setting Group

One of the reasons that I had not been a goal-setter previously was because I thought of it as something you did on your own.
I don’t know that I’d ever even heard of a goal-setting group, so when a friend invited me to join one that she was founding, I jumped right in.

I’d like to share with you, the many benefits of joining or even founding a goal-setting group of your own. I’ll even provide the practical steps for doing so. It’s much easier than you might think…

1. Five heads are better than one
I remember reading in Freakonomics that a child’s peers are more instrumental to the child’s success and personality than parental involvement and guidance. Wow! Maybe this finding shocks you … maybe not … or maybe you will dismiss it as untrue. But think about how most children spend their time, and consider the following quotes:

  • “You are, or will become, the average of the five people you associate with the most.” – Brian Carruthers
  • “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey
  • “…you cannot soar with the eagles as long as you’re pecking around with the chickens.” – Joel Osteen

I invite you to look through your list of contacts and select the ideal goal-setters to join your group. In my experience, five is the magic number for members. These people should be successful, committed, driven, supportive, generous (with themselves and others) and high-achievers. If you aren’t the type of person to get something like this off the ground, that’s OK, just be sure to invite someone into the group who will. Extend an invitation to your first choices and have a backup list of three to five more, to cover folks who may decide not to opt in.

The next four steps will be your “ground rules” for each session – be sure to communicate these rules and gain agreement from the group, especially at the beginning of your first session.
Additionally, you can refer to last month’s eNewsletter (September 2008) for the 5 Proven Steps to Achieving All of Your Goals.”

2. Quiet on the set
It will take members 40 to 60 minutes to write down their goals, using the provided goal-setting sheets (see link below). During this time, make a commitment to one another to maintain silence. If one person breaks that silence, the floodgates are likely to open and off you’ll all go on a tangent.

3. Actions speak louder and “To-Do Lists” don’t work
As each person completes their goal sheets, next they should enter those goals into their calendars, assigning a specific day and time for each. Consider the action steps and outside support necessary to attain your goals and place each of these steps on your calendar, assigning a specific day and time to each. (Remember to also schedule rewards as positive reinforcement for your efforts.)

4. Thanks for your support
Once the forms are complete, each person can examine their goals and share three items with which they’d like some support. (Note: these items may or may not be the same as your “Focus Goals,” as defined by your goal-setting sheets) Support comes in many forms and always amazes me. Without fail, someone in our group possesses some unique knowledge or offers to make the perfect connection for another member. Expect to find much richness inside of your group.

Be sure to designate one member to take notes for the group (preferably typing them directly into the body of an e-mail message). A list of members and their shared goals, along with areas in which they requested support, can be sent to everyone in an e-mail that day. I find myself referring to this e-mail between meetings to see how I can help my colleagues. Sometimes I’ll just send a gentle reminder like, “How many times are you going to hit the gym this week?”

At the beginning of each subsequent session, have everyone share how other members supported them. This is a great way to get things started, focusing on gratitude for others and recognizing the power of a team.

5. “Great session … see ya later.”
Wait right there! Before everyone leaves, confirm next month’s session and have everyone write it on their calendar. Choose a recurring date and time, such as the first Saturday of each month from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Remember to also agree upon a place – perhaps you can take turns hosting. If you part ways and leave these details to several “reply all” e-mails … well … you know how that goes.

Also, assign a responsibility to each member such as what snacks to bring to the next session, who will be taking notes for the group, who will be hosting next time, etc. Delegating responsibilities allows everyone to play an integral role and members will, therefore, be much less likely to miss a session.


Final thoughts: We create our world with our words. Your mind begins to organize itself around your intentions. There is a lot of power in speaking aloud your goals and sharing them with others. Often we accomplish more by being accountable to others than we do by being accountable only to ourselves.

Recognize how all areas of your life – as illustrated on the attached document – affect all other areas of your life. Click here to request my monthly goal-setting sheets which outline seven key areas for opportunity and growth.

Visit: Goal-setting quick-tips